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The Maple Syrup Problem: An Ethico-Culinary Dilemma [moved from General Topics]

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mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 05:50 PM

There is a certain breakfast eatery that serves delicious crepe-style pancakes. Unfortunately, they serve them with imitation maple syrup. I would gladly pay extra for the real deal if it were available (the prices are so low anyway)—but it is not. Is it wrong, oh wise Chowhound masses, to bring my own maple syrup to this restaurant? If not, how should I go about it?

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  1. foodieX2 RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 05:52 PM

    I bring my own hot sauce places so can't imagine anyone would have problem w/ syrup. Now if you were bring the *fake* stuff I could see them having an issue.

    1. j
      jhenner RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 05:54 PM

      I suppose it depends on restaurant policy. If they don't care, then neither should you.

      I used to bring Boylan's sodas into my favorite pizzeria because all they served was Coke and Diet Coke.

      1. c
        ceegee RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 05:58 PM

        I don't think it's wrong at all! I would just bring the amount that you intend to use in a small container and put it on your pancakes without saying anything. If you're not comfortable with that, tell your server when you order...maybe if you explain that you "would gladly pay extra for the real deal if it were available" they will consider making it an option. If there's an issue tell them you avoid hfcs or things with artificial flavors.

        Anyway, I understand where you're coming from, I won't order pancakes from a place that doesn't offer real maple syrup!

        1. h
          hlwd_marko RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 06:01 PM

          I can't see why they should have a problem with you bringing in a condiment that is not charged ( I assume) separately. Also, since at some point they will get curious about it, and ask most lkikely ask you why you're doing so, you'll have a great change to make a little statement about importance of quality syryp. Who knows, maybe they'll get better stuff too, and make it available for extra charge, or come up with some other solution to provide it.

          5 Replies
          1. re: hlwd_marko
            Non Cognomina RE: hlwd_marko Jul 17, 2006 09:06 PM

            I totally agree with hlwd_marko. I've taken sorghum with me to when I know I'm going out for pancakes or waffles because it's my favorite thing to have on them, and most people have never heard of sorghum. The perfect amount fits into a travel sized shampoo bottle and I use it rather inconspicuously. I have had servers come up and say that they had real maple if I preferred, but when I told them it was sorghum they look kind of puzzled. BTW, I always keep a tin of Kosher salt in my purse and nowhere I've ever eaten has made a deal of it.

            1. re: Non Cognomina
              ChowFun_derek RE: Non Cognomina Jul 18, 2006 04:46 PM

              Well, you have DEFINITELY piqued my interest!
              Tell us more about sorghum...can the taste be described, or perhaps compared to something most of us might have tried...karo, treacle, golden syrup, maple...etc?
              Thanks

              btw..I would not give it a second thought to bring any condiment not supplied by a restaurant...they are happy to have me as a customer..and I am taking care of a need which they have not.

              1. re: ChowFun_derek
                Non Cognomina RE: ChowFun_derek Jul 19, 2006 05:04 AM

                Sorghum is a syrup made from the sorghum plant, a crop that is cultivated mostly in the midwest and south of the United States, as well as in other countries. Just as sugar cane is boiled down to make molassas, so sorghum cane is boiled down to make sorghum syrup. It has the viscosity of honey, and its color ranges from a light brown to almost black, with the concentration of flavor deepening with the increased darkness of the syrup.

                Sorghum has a unique flavor. It seems a disservice to compare it to another flavor, as there really isn't another flavor like it. How would one describe the flavor of a plum other than "it tastes like a plum?" The best I can say is its flavor is less biting than molassas, more complex than brown rice syrup, and nothing like honey or corn syrup.

                My grandma grew up in central Missouri and her family had sorghum on their farm. She told me wonderful stories of how boiling it down took about 3 days. They did it in a big kettle over a fire out in back of the house, and it had to be stirred and stirred and stirred. It was torturous to endure the intoxicating sweetness in the air until it had properly cooked and cooled.

                As for where to get it, The Cracker Barrel country restaurants used to carry it, and that's where I got it for a long time. They discontinued carrying it in the stores near where I have relatives, so I usually pick it up wherever I can find it when I'm travelling around the country. There are a few specialty/gourmet stores where I have found it in the Bay Area, but I find they are priced sometimes more than 5 times what I can get them for in the Midwest or South.

                When buying sorghum, be sure to read the ingredient label. I've found some that are a mixture of sorghum and cane syrup or glucose. I think they do that for shelf stability as sorghum can crystalize if not used within a year. But I've never really found it to be a problem. Ingredients should read only "sorghum syrup" or "pure sorghum." "Sweet Sorghum" is a designation that the syrup has come from that specific variety of sorghum plant, which I find is too sweet for my liking.

                Give sorghum a try! Perhaps I should start a thread about it....

                1. re: Non Cognomina
                  ChowFun_derek RE: Non Cognomina Jul 19, 2006 07:55 AM

                  Thanks so much for your very complete explanation! I must try some...I am in S.F. where did you find the stuff in the Bay Area...or...Is there a website from which you've ordered it?

                  1. re: Non Cognomina
                    Non Cognomina RE: Non Cognomina Jul 19, 2006 12:19 PM

                    ChowFun_derek, I saw Sorghum at Sunshine Foods in St. Helena and Ranch Market, Too in Yountville, both in Napa Valley. Both places are kind of a hike from SF! They might have it at the Berkeley Bowl.

                    As for an online vendor, try any of the following. I have not purchased sorghum online, and you may want to call just to make sure you are buying pure sorghum.

                    Cheers!

                    http://sandhillfarm.org/products.html

                    www.clintonfamilyfarms.com

            2. rworange RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 06:10 PM

              This topic was on the Not About Food Board a while back. The restaurant owners(s?) who said they would not allow it cited insurance liability. I'd ask.

              Bringing own condiments to restaurants?

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              3 Replies
              1. re: rworange
                ipsedixit RE: rworange Jul 17, 2006 07:13 PM

                Ya know, I actually started that thread and having read through all of the replies and thinking about it a bit more, I must say that I don't really think the liability issue is really an issue ...

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  c
                  ceegee RE: ipsedixit Jul 17, 2006 07:17 PM

                  yeah, if liability were really an issue I don't think any restaurants would be BYO!

                2. re: rworange
                  f
                  foiegras RE: rworange Jul 18, 2006 04:45 PM

                  See, that's why you shouldn't mention it ;) Bring it in a flask and apply surreptitiously ...

                3. h
                  hlwd_marko RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 07:18 PM

                  Slightly OT, but (I also checked out that link above by rworange) how come bringing your wine to restaurant is OK, but not syryp? Rest. may get the corkage fee from wine, but what they are really losing in syryp situation? Nothing, until their bad syryp is charged separately; or do they actually gain something, since they get to keep their own syryp? As for the liabilty question,if a person gets drunk after drinking his/hers wine at the restaurant, drunk-drives home, killing somebody, is the restaurant liable for it by allowing him/her to get intoxicated at their premises?

                  1. Caitlin McGrath RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 07:52 PM

                    I have done this before may times. I lived in an area where many restaurants that didn't serve pure maple syrup offered it for a premium, which fine with me, but I moved to a place where this wasn't the case, then again to another place where...same thingg.

                    To my mind, it depends on the kind of place you are going to. I am annoyed by more upscale restauranta that charge $10 for a plate of pancakes and serve fake syrup (which I just won't eat; I'm a confessed syrup snob, having grown up with the real thing) and don't even offer and upgrade, but I don't necessarily feel comfortable whipping out my own syrup in those places, so I often either order something else, or if they have them, go for pancakes that don't need the syrup (e.g., that come with lots of fruit or other topping, and are heavily flavored - gingerbread, pumpkin, etc.).

                    Now, in your neighborhood joint, your Original Pancake House, etc., it's a different story. I'm discreet about it, but I just take out my little bottle of maple syrup (you can actually buy mini bottles, 2 oz or so, at places like World Market, then refill them at home) when the pancakes come. Since there are usually two of using it, it sits on the table, and no server has ever even mentioned it; trulysay anything about it, and we don't ask them not to bring us their regular syrup, we just don't use it.) It really does make all the difference in the world, to our pancaking, though!.

                    1. m
                      mhoffman RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 08:04 PM

                      Perhaps a don't-ask-don't-tell policy would be the least confrontational route, though I agree that, though risky, waving your quality syrup in the faces of the pancake-makers is probably the best way to percipitate change, if that's what one I after.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mhoffman
                        d
                        dano RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 08:17 PM

                        yeah...

                      2. m
                        mhoffman RE: mhoffman Jul 17, 2006 08:26 PM

                        Sorry, too much coffee leads to run-on sentences.

                        1. c
                          C70 RE: mhoffman Jul 18, 2006 02:34 PM

                          I see nothing wrong with this. I had a customer who brought her own sugar-free jam and it never bothered me a bit.

                          1. j
                            jlawrence01 RE: mhoffman Jul 18, 2006 02:41 PM

                            I can't see the ethical dilemma. If they served real maple syrup and you ripped it off, that is a problem. But if you bring your own, how is that huring the restaurant? Creating too much customer envy?

                            1. l
                              Louise RE: mhoffman Jul 18, 2006 03:38 PM

                              I just finished reading the linked to thread and it totally blew my mind. I used to work in the business, both front and back of the house, and would never think of bringing my own food, except maybe snacks for very small children.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Louise
                                LindaWhit RE: Louise Jul 18, 2006 03:55 PM

                                The difference between *real* maple syrup and the imitation crap is more than enough reason to bring my own. It's obvious that the restaurant is trying to save money by only offering the imitation, but if I'm going to a diner - a BREAKFAST diner - and they don't have real maple syrup and for some stupid reason, refuse to allow me to bring my own, I'm walking and not coming back.

                              2. f
                                feelinpeckish RE: mhoffman Jul 18, 2006 06:59 PM

                                I would definitely bring my own, I already travel with my favorite "hot" sauce. Don't ask, don't tell - it is not of their concern. I am the payer and they should provide a reasonable product. However if they provide the real syrup only at an extra charge, then eat elsewhere, they are then in the position of "gaffing" you IMHO.

                                1. k
                                  kayandallie RE: mhoffman Jul 18, 2006 10:06 PM

                                  I hate to bring up my ancient age in a new board, but when you get to a certain age, you don't care what they think. I guess if you're worried about them banning you from the premises (if the pancakes are that great), maybe then you don't want to risk the threat to your future. Otherwise, who cares what they think? If you want your syrup, then bring your syrup. Being worried that they will think your syrup is a liability issue is silly (and if they say it is a liability issue, that is silly also- who knows what putrid garbage you may have ingested just prior to or after leaving).
                                  Take your syrup and just pour it on.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kayandallie
                                    Davwud RE: kayandallie Jul 21, 2006 11:40 AM

                                    Well first of all, if I went to a pancake/crepe house that didn't offer real maple syrup, I probably wouldn't go back. If I did go back, I'd certainly take some of the good stuff. If they didn't like it, it would absolutely be my last trip there. At least for pancakes.
                                    I'm just confused about how they could not have it and perhaps sorgum and corn syrup and just about any other condiment one would put on pancakes at a pancake house.

                                    DT

                                  2. f
                                    Fleur RE: mhoffman Jul 24, 2006 09:05 AM

                                    Real Maple Syrup is a regional thing. People outside the Northeast use other syrups on pancakes.Maple syrup... it's a New England thing.

                                    DH is a Texan and never tasted maple syrup, or maple sugar, or Indian pudding until he moved up here.

                                    What do they use on pancakes? Pancake syrup!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Fleur
                                      Non Cognomina RE: Fleur Jul 24, 2006 10:01 AM

                                      Fleur, I beg to differ that "Real Maple Syrup" is a regional "New England" thing. For starters, the first time I had "real maple syrup" was in Seattle, Washington. The best maple syrup I've had was from Michigan. And the only place that serves pancakes that I've ever been to that didn't have "real" maple syrup was in Brooklyn! That's not to deny that maple syrup may be more prevalent in New England, especially in New Hampshire and Vermont.

                                      As for Texas, I was in Austin in April and went for pancakes. I had the option not only of real maple syrup, but of sweet cane syrup, house pancake syrup, orange blossom honey, molassas, Swedish lingonberry syrup, two kinds of jam!

                                      1. re: Fleur
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: Fleur Jul 24, 2006 03:54 PM

                                        The Grade B Canadian maple syrup I buy at Trader Joe's in Califonia is about as non-New-England as anything can be.

                                      2. Davwud RE: mhoffman Jul 24, 2006 02:53 PM

                                        Um, hello!! Canada.!! Remember us?? We're the ones with a maple leaf on our flag.!! Last I checked we weren't part of New England either.

                                        In all seriousity, from what I understand the majority of the worlds maple syrup stock comes from Quebec.

                                        DT

                                        1. hatless RE: mhoffman Jul 24, 2006 03:15 PM

                                          Sorry, I just don't understand what problem there is bringing in a condiment that doesn't displace anything the restaurant charges for.

                                          It's one thing to bring your own beverages or actual food or to expect a free cup of hot water for a teabag you brought (I'd at least sincerely offer to pay for the cup of tea). But I have trouble believing that anyone working in a restaurant would care if you brought in a bottle of syrup or hot sauce or a packet of a sweetener they don't serve. I think it would be more annoying to be asked if it was okay. Why shouldn't it be? How does it reduce their sale or burden them with extra work?

                                          However, by the same token, it would be inapporpriate to ask for or expect a discount because you didn't use their syrup. Order pancakes with their syrup and use your own.

                                          1. The Engineer RE: mhoffman Jul 24, 2006 03:24 PM

                                            Thanks you fellow chowhounds, especially mhoffman for starting this thread! Yesterday I brought a spice jar of maple syrup and some of my favorite butter, Kerrygold, wrapped in plastic to the local diner and had a delicious Belgian waffle! I hadn't thought to bring my own condiments until seeing this thread. Until now, I dreaded diner breakfasts... nothing appeals to me, because the quality of ingredients is usually pretty low. Fruit salad from yesterday, orange juice squeezed last month in Florida, eggs that were lain around independance day, bacon devoid of flavor... but diners are plentiful in these parts and my wife likes her American cheese omelet, so we go. Now I can actually look forward to Sunday! Thanks Chowhounds!

                                            1. missclaudy RE: mhoffman Jul 24, 2006 04:32 PM

                                              I travel with a few limes rolling around in my hand bag at ALL times. I can make mediocre food taste pretty good with a splash of lime juice. Zubin Mehta, the famous classical music conductor travels with a kit of chutneys and pickles that he takes to restaurants with him when he is on the road. I have a fantasy of a tummy pack, outfitted with small containers of smoked paprika, chipotle sauce,good salt, preserved lemons and maple syrup that I could add to any restaurant food. Great item to put into production for all of us food fiends!

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